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Ex-NHLer wins suit for wrongful termination of endorsement deal

The precise wording of a contract is integral to its proper enforcement. Any person who takes action based on a contract clause needs to be certain of their interpretation of that clause or risk their action backfiring on them. A recent example in the news stems from a settlement over a wrongful termination claim by a former professional hockey player in Ontario.

In May 2011, then-Toronto Maple Leaf Mike Zigomanis signed a two-year contract to promote an energy drink. The terms of the contract stipulated that Zigomanis would be paid $200,000 for his involvement in TV commercials and other promotional activities. However, the company owner, Donald D'Angelo, cancelled the contract in Feb. 2011, after paying out only $37,500. In doing so, he cited both Zigomanis' demotion to the Leafs' farm team and a recent scandal involving nude photos of Zigomanis on the internet.

A clause in the contract would allow for its termination by D'Angelo if the player engaged in any behaviour that would be viewed as shocking to the public and which might hurt the brand's image. Zigomanis took the issue to court, claiming wrongful termination and seeking the balance of the contract. The judge presiding sided with Zigomanis, ruling that since the photos were taken prior to the contract signing, and since they were posted without his consent, the morals clause did not apply. He was awarded $162,500, plus interest and costs.

A well-written contract can protect both an employer and an employee. However, almost every aspect of a contract may be subject to interpretation. Should any workers in Ontario feel they are the victim of wrongful termination, they may want to bring their cases to a lawyer who handles employment law disputes. A skilled lawyer will be able to recommend the best course of action to take.

Source: Toronto Sun, "Former Leaf Mike Zigomanis wins suit against Frank D'Angelo", Sam Pazzano, Nov. 17, 2016

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